Skeleton Tree

What would you do if you found a bone poking out of the earth in your back garden, one that started to grow, reaching up out of the ground until it turned into a skeleton? This is the situation facing twelve-year-old Stanly Stanwright, the protagonist of this unusual and heart-warming adventure.

Stanly is determined to take a photo of ‘Princy,’ as his little sister Miren decides to christen the elusive skeleton, and send it in to National Geographic. Maybe his dad will finally come back home if he wins its Young Discoverer’s Prize! But Princy seems to have a mind of his own and when he makes friends with a very ill Miren, Stanly starts to get a little bit wary of him.

Kim Ventrella’s début novel is a moving story about how sickness can strike at the very heart of a family. At first glance, I thought that this was a young adult novel, given the cover’s dark, minimalist look, but instead it is pure and often joyful middle-grade fiction at its best. Ventrella strikes the perfect balance between slapstick humour and the seriousness of the situation facing Stanly and his mum as they struggle to hold everything together.

I like that the intense bond between Stanly and his sister is celebrated throughout, but that Stanly also has on outlet for his anger and frustration in the form of Slurpy, the pet zombie in his head who gobbles up his problems. A sensitive take on grief and growing up.